These 19 women were chosen as finalists by our selection committee from a group of more than 40 nominees. Between them, they have countless years of community service, professional expertise and leadership experience. That’s what makes them our Influential Women and influential women in their families, communities and workplaces.
Albine BennettAlbine Bennett is Director of Communications at the CREATE Foundation. She has been recognized by the Mississippi Business Journal Top 50 Under 40 and the Daily Journal’s Top 40 Under 40. Albine is a member of the Jim Ingram Leadership Institute, and she volunteers with NEWMS, Sanctuary Hospice Junior Auxiliary, READ First Coalition, AEE, United Blood Services and the Pontotoc Elementary PTO. Albine also coaches a Saltillo Parks & Rec girls basketball team and coordinates the CREATE Imagine the Possibilities Career Expo. Albine created the Lip Sync Battle Fundraiser event, which raised over $7,000 for NEWMS, and she is currently in the process of creating a volunteer hub in NEMS to connect volunteers with non-profits in the area.
Amanda AngleAmanda Angle is a Certified Public Accountant with Watkins Uiberall. She has been a CPA for 20 years. Amanda is a member of several community organizations, including BNI Tupelo (president), Rotary Club (treasurer), Exchange Club, Tupelo Women’s Club, Regional Rehab, Family Resource Center, Boy Scouts Yocona Council, 100 Women Who Care, Tupelo Country Club tennis, Tupelo Pickleball League and the Tupelo Mah Jongg League. She belongs to several professional organizations as well and is a current board member of the MS Society of CPAs. Amanda also participates and volunteers in community events including Dance Like the Stars, NEWMS Lip Sync Battle, 10 for Tupelo and Regional Rehab events.
Amanda HaydenAmanda Hayden is the owner of Cafe 212, a Tupelo main street restaurant that she runs with her husband. She is a founding member of Tupelo Rocks, president of Quality of Life, a member of the Main Street Association and involved with the HRC. Amanda helps organize local events and beautification projects to help make Tupelo an awesome place to live like the Off the Wall mural project and Rocktober Fest. She also helped create and put on the former Mustache Bash event, which benefited the Autism Center of North MS. In 2017, Amanda was named the Daily Journal’s Person of the Year at its Top 40 Under 40 event.
Asia RaineyAsia Rainey is a writer, artist and educator. She is the founder and director of WordPlay, which offers literary arts education and advocacy to the community, and brought the program from New Orleans to Tupelo. Asia teaches workshops and hosts events like open mic nights and literary arts festivals. She also created the Open DOORS project, implementing a dialogue about race and racism in the community. She volunteers with the Day One Project supporting incarcerated women and the Tupelo Police Athletic League. Asia is a Mississippi Arts Commission Fellow and current volunteer artist-in-residence at the Link Centre.
Becky RollinsBecky Rollins is a retired educator who now spends her time doing volunteer work. She taught for 27 years and was named both teacher of the year and administrator of the year during her career in education. Becky is the creator of the A Novel Affair event, an annual fundraiser for the Lee County Library, as well as a board member and president of Friends of the Lee County Library. She also serves as a board member for the CREATE Foundation, Boys and Girls Club of North Mississippi, AEE and Read First.
Cathy RobertsonCathy Robertson is Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer at BancorpSouth. She has been employed with BancorpSouth for 42 years and was the first female management trainee at BancorpSouth. Cathy was awarded the J.G. Berry United Way Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service, was named the Rotarian of the Year and a Woman of Distinction by the Business and Professional Women’s Club. Cathy has also served on numerous boards among local organizations including HealthWorks!, Good Samaritan Health Services, United Way, North MS Symphony Orchestra and Financial Women International. Cathy is also in the Northeast Mississippi Community College Hall of Fame.
Dody VailDody Vail is Executive Director of the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence of NEMS. Dody has been in her current position for 23 years, helping over 4,000 addicted individuals a year get assessed and referred to treatment. She opened the first long-term sober living program in the state, Extra Mile Sober Living Center for Men in Mantachie, and served as its director and head counselor for 10 years. In 2015, she was named MS Association of Addiction Professionals’ addiction prevention professional of the year. Dody has written 20 grants, 19 of which were awarded full funding totaling more than $3.1 million for addiction recovery. She is also an internationally certified alcohol and drug counselor, clinical supervisor and clinical interpreter.
Jennie Bradford CurleeJennie Bradford Curlee is the Director of Public Relations & International Sales for the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau. Jennie is a member of several organizations including the MS Tourism Association, Society of American Travel Writers, Junior Auxiliary, Joyner Elementary PTA, Tupelo-Lee Humane Society, Tupelo Tennis Association, Tupelo Community Theater Lyric Krewe and the Tupelo Running Club. She was 2017 Chairman of the JA Charity Ball, which raised almost $180,000 for the group’s nine child welfare projects in Tupelo. She also helped implement public relations campaigns in Tupelo, including #Hi5Friday and #MyTupelo. Jennie has been named 2018 Volunteer of the Year by the Junior Auxiliary of Tupelo, one of the MS Business Journal’s Top 50 Under 40 and Woman of the Year by the Tupelo Women’s Club.
Jenny JonesJenny Jones is the Chief Community Engagement Officer for Girl Scouts Heart of the South. She is a member of the American Camp Association, Public Relations Association, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Committee and Rotary Club (current president). Jenny has been director at Camp Tik-A-Witha for nine years and she is the first director who was also a camper there. As Rotary president, Jenny has led the club in aiding the Tupelo Public School District and the Lee County School District, Regional Rehab, Sanctuary Hospice Hospice House, Boys and Girls Club, 10 for Tupelo, Girl Scouts and Lee County Library through grants and fundraisers. She also created an annual fundraising event for Girl Scouts Heart of the South.
Kaila TimbsKaila Timbs is a loan officer and Assistant Branch Manager at First American National Bank in Iuka. Kaila is currently vice president of Junior Auxiliary of Tishomingo County and treasurer of the Belmont Events and Promotional Association. She has participated in and helped organize community events including the Sweetheart Pageant, Breakfast with Santa, Coats for Kids, Angel Tree, Movies in the Park, Fourth of July fireworks, Bear Creek Festival and Car Show and the Christmas Parade. She is also the first person in her family to graduate from college with a four-year degree.
Leigh Ann MattoxLeigh Ann Mattox is Recreation Director for Tupelo Parks and Recreation. Leigh Ann coaches challenged softball, basketball, soccer and Special Olympics swimming, and hosts dances for special needs individuals. She was also selected as 2018 Team Mississippi USA Games swim coach. Leigh Ann delivers Meals on Wheels monthly, volunteers to teach the Little Ripples swim program and helps put on many annual city events, including the All-America City family picnic in the park, Cherry Blossom Festival and the Lighting of the Park at Christmas. She also mentors high school seniors working on special needs senior projects.
Marsha TapscottMarsha Tapscott is the director of marketing and communications at North Mississippi Medical Center. Under her leadership, the NMHS Marketing Department received national awards for their “Connected Feels Like” campaign. Her involvement in community and professional organizations includes MHA Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations, American Hospital Association Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development, Girl Scouts Heart of the South, CDF REACH Campaign, NEWMS, Public Relations Association of NEMS (PRAM), Good Samaritan Free Clinic, Salvation Army, United Way, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Tupelo Public School District Community Advisory Council and the NEMS Kappa Delta Alumnae Association. Marsha was also named the Mississippi Hospital Association Society for Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations Senior Professional of the Year.
Melanie DeasMelanie Deas has been Executive Director at the Link Centre for 11 years. In that role, she plans and implements programs and services that support the arts, education, cultural awareness, diversity, social services, health and welfare within the Tupelo and northeast Mississippi region. Melanie is a member of and volunteers with numerous organizations including the Tupelo Police Athletic League, Mississippi Humanities Council, Equality Mississippi, the ACLU of Mississippi, Boys and Girls Clubs Dance Like the Stars and Cook Like the Stars events, First Presbyterian Tupelo Chancel Choir and the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. She also directed the presentation that helped Tupelo bring home its record fifth All-America City Award from the National Civic League in 2015.
Meredith TollisonMeredith Tollison is the owner of three local businesses: Keep It Casual (16 years), LD Hancock Family (3.5 years) and Quintessential Dog Training (1 year). She is a certified dog trainer and dog bite safety instructor. Meredith volunteers with Junior Auxiliary, the Link Centre, Tupelo Ballet and the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society. She managed the Clothes Closet service project with JA, which provides clothing and hygiene products to hundreds of school children annually. She is also the past president of the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra League.
Merissa RamboMerissa Rambo is Director of the Summers.a.l.t. Reading Program. She developed the Summers.a.l.t. Reading program at The Orchard Church before turning it into a nonprofit organization. The program helps 160 K-3rd grade students each summer who struggle with reading. Merissa also founded and organizes The Cottage School, an educational group for homeschool students to attend two days a week. She is a staff member with The Orchard Church and a member of Junior Auxiliary of Tupelo. Merissa received the Community Partner Award from the Tupelo Public School District.
Roxie ClaytonRoxie Clayton is the owner of VOW Fitness, an adjunct faculty member at Ole Miss and a dance teacher at North MS Dance Center. She is also the Artistic Director and creator of Doniphan Dance Project, which promotes the awareness of modern dance to local youth through community projects, workshops and dance performances. Roxie opened her own business, VOW, and teaches barre and cardio fitness classes. Her choreography was commissioned at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Sharon EnzorDr. Sharon Enzor is the chief academic officer at Blue Mountain College, serves as academic dean of the faculty, is a member of the President’s Cabinet and advises the President on academic affairs. She has also participated in a number of international, regional, state and local events with Delta Kappa Gamma Society International in the 44 years she has been a member. Additionally, Sharon is a volunteer peer evaluator with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. She led the completion of the 2015 Compliance Certification for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges for which the College had no recommendations.
Tia WrightTia Wright is a business consultant and president and founder of Work 2 Life, a non-profit that helps homeless and employment-challenged persons reconnect to a job. Tia is certified professionally in a number of areas, including Myers Briggs, life and health insurance and leadership. She is also a member of the First United Methodist Church Missions committee and served as chair for 2017. Tia volunteers with different organizations and fundraisers, like the Rice and Beans fundraiser, Helping Hands food pantry, Community Embrace, the 719 Project, mission trips and Habitat for Humanity.
Windy FaulknerWindy Faulkner is the assistant superintendent and curriculum director for the Union County School District. She is a Millsap’s Principal Institute Graduate, a Mississippi School Board Perspective Academy Graduate, a 40 under 40 nominee, a member of Mississippi Professional Educators, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, Excel by 5, Kiwanis Club, Pilot Club, Delta Kappa Gamma and the Union County Leadership Academy. Windy also helped obtain Excel by 5 status for Union County and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education.
Influential Woman of the Year 2018
Meet Meredith Martin: She’s a realtor with Tommy Morgan Realtors, community volunteer and supporter of the arts, and she’s working to make Tupelo a better place. Read our feature on Meredith to learn more about why she was named our 2018 Influential Woman of the Year.
2018 Scholarship Recipients
These three rising seniors were awarded our Future Influential Women scholarships based on their academics, community service and extracurricular involvement. They’re well on their way to becoming leaders who will impact their communities for years to come. Click each of their photos to read more about these influential women in the making.